Rwanda is blessed with ideal coffee growing conditions such as high altitude, regular rainfall, volcanic soils with good organic structure and an abundance of Bourbon.
The vast majority of Rwandan coffee is produced by smallholders of which there are thought to be around half a million with parcels of land often not much larger than just one hectare per family. Coffee is grown in most parts of the country, with particularly large concentrations along Lake Kivu and in the southern province.
Rwandan smallholders organise themselves into cooperatives and share the services of centralised wet-mills – or washing stations as they are known locally. Flowering takes place between September and October and the harvest runs from March to July, with shipments starting in August through December.
The owner of Bwenda, Bernard Uwitije, is a native of southern Rwanda, in the district of Nyamagabe. Coming from a region where coffee was a dominant crop, he first entered the sector trading ordinary commodity coffee. He later learned of the added value when being able to fully process. Wanting to set up a proper and sustainable business in the coffee sector, he built his first wet mill near his hometown in 2016.
Bwenda was his third washing station, which he built in 2018 after realising a group of farmers who were a bit isolated, did not have a closer washing station to process their cherries into high quality coffee. 2019 was the first season of operating Bwenda, processing only 1 container worth of cherries.
During the harvest the farmers deliver cherry to the washing station where they are floated and separated before then being pulped on a mckinnon disc pulper and fermented in tanks overnight until the mucilage is ready to be washed off. From here it then passes through the grading channels before then being taken to the raised beds and dried for 10 - 14 days.